Children and Covid-19: What the latest study says

  • A new study indicated 77% 'normal' chest scans among children
  • The research suggested that higher age = more severe Covid-19 lung damage
  • This research is the largest case series to date

As debate rages about whether it’s safe enough to send children back to school amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, research continues to suggest that children contract milder Covid-19 than adults.

The latest study, a case investigation published in the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) showed that most young patients who contract Covid-19 have negative chest CT findings.

But what does this mean? When a chest CT scan or X-ray is referred to as “negative”, this means that the lungs present as normal and that no damage is found.

Largest study involving paediatric lung scans

The research was conducted by a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers reviewed the CT scan imaging and clinical cases of 30 children, all between the ages of 10 months and 18 years who tested positive for Covid-19 through the RT-PCR testing method.

These children were all treated at six centres in China between 23 January and 8 February 2020. The majority of the children (77%) revealed negative lung CT scans – 23 out of the 30 children, according to Sharon Steinberger, first study author.

And even though the sample size may seem small, it’s the largest case series to date to describe the imaging findings of paediatric patients with Covid-19, according to Steinberger.

Less extensive disease, even when CT is positive

In the young patients who showed positive lung CT scans, the most prevalent findings included bilateral lower lobe-predominant ground glass-opacity, crazy paving patterns and reverse halo signs. All of the patients who had these phenomena in their CT scans, also showed the typical Covid-19 symptoms, including coughing and fever.

According to the study authors, recognising these specific Covid-19-related patterns in children can help radiologists distinguish between Covid-19-related pneumonia and lobar pneumonia. Although the features described in the study are not unique to Covid-19, it is more likely to appear in the case of Covid-19.

The authors noted that when imaging results are positive, they were not specific to Covid-19 and have been seen in other inflammatory conditions before.

Higher age = higher severity

While there are several limitations to this study and more research is needed to understand the exact clinical symptoms and lung imaging present in children, the conclusion is that the clinical findings and lung CT results may be less severe than those reported among adult patients. The authors noted a correlation between higher age and the severity of Covid-19 symptoms.

How to protect your young children against Covid-19

If you are concerned about the safety of your children during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are several measures you can take to ensure that the entire family stays safe.

Our sister-site, Parent24, has a directory of comprehensive guides to help you. Some tips include:

  • Teach your children how to wash their hands thoroughly.
  • Talk to them about the Covid-19 situation. Explain that they don’t have to be scared, but that we must all try our best to stay healthy through general hygiene practices.
  • Encourage your child to stay active and play outside if possible.
  • Encourage your child to digitally connect with friends and family members outside the home.

Monitor your child regularly for any symptoms, including a fever and cough, and contact your health care provider immediately for advice on next steps, especially if you suspect that someone in your immediate family may have had contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. 

Image credit: Gustavo Fring on Pexels

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